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Mainstream, Vol No 46

On Tehelka’s Gujarat Sting

Saturday 3 November 2007, by Mukul Dube

Shortly after the telecast of the Tehelka sting operating on Gujarat 2002, a friend telephoned to remind me of a discussion some of us had had in the middle of 2004. We had agreed that despite the dismal situation at the time, with the new government in Delhi making no effort to do anything about the Gujarat massacre, sooner or later the truth would come out. What we counted on was the certainty that at least some of the many functionaries of the Sangh Parivar, who must have been involved, would boast about their exploits and about their closeness to those at the top of their hierarchy.

As we had predicted, mean-minded braggarts have emerged to describe how well organised and blood-thirsty they had been, how they had had the support of the police and the administration, and how they had won the praise of Emperor “Nero” Modi himself. We had expected such boasting in dribs and drabs, and it is to the credit of Ashish Khetan of Tehelka that he managed alone to open so many mealy mouths.

As was to be expected, the Sangh Parivar immediately began attempts at a cover-up. For example, the man who had gloatingly described, on camera, how he cut open the stomach of a pregnant woman now says that he was only quoting from the charges made against him.

Predictably, the BJP’s spokesman attacked Tehelka. All he could do, however, was weakly to ask why Tehelka had not so far launched a sting operation against the Congress party. State level elections are due in Gujarat, so naturally the timing of the revelations was questioned: as if that has anything to do with their substance.

In Gujarat, where the ideology of Hindutva is pervasive and its hold is seemingly absolute, the Parivar should not find it difficult to twist the Tehelka revelations to its advantage. How this will be done remains to be seen, but many have already voiced the fear that a damning indictment will be turned into an electoral trump card.

The first step, of course, was seeing to it that the Tehelka revelations did not reach the people of Gujarat. Cable TV operators across the State are said to have blocked the report, and in Ahmedabad the District Magistrate issued an order banning the broadcast of material which was “not as par programming code”. This is precisely the kind of control over the media that was exercised in Gujarat in 2002 and later. The “friendly” press of the State is sure to join in, putting out its lies and poison.

OVER five years after the Gujarat genocide, it looks as if a beginning has been made to bring to book those who were responsible for it. It would be premature, though, to think that the battle is won. Our legal system is well known for its slow functioning. Worse, while the recorded admissions of criminals damn them personally, the evidence that Tehelka’s work has brought out against Modi, for example, must be described as hearsay.

It is probable however, that Tehelka has a great deal more material than was shown on television. It is also probable that that material is much more incriminating than what was telecast. In particular, it is to be hoped that material yet to be made public will be of the kind that can be used in courts of law. For example, the statement of “Babu Bajrangi” that Modi hid him for months in a Gujarat Government accommodation in Rajasthan and, after his arrest, changed three judges before one was found who was amenable to giving him bail, can be verified from the records.

In May 2005, commenting on the criticism made of the handling of the “riots” by former Gujarat Governor (and long-time RSS member) S.S. Bhandari and BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, and on the reactions this brought from sections of the Sangh Parivar, I wrote: “It is not only that the rats have begun to scurry madly among their lies now that the truth is coming out. The rats are also attacking one another.”

Once again we can expect the brave soldiers of the Sangh Parivar to push forward others from among their fellows to face the law. Narendra Modi himself will have many to point to, if it comes to that, for he cannot have handled such a massive operation by himself. The names of many of the top organisers have long been known, as was most of what Tehelka has now presented on tape.

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